THE BELIEVER’S PORTION 

Mark R Buchan

Luke 14: 21-23; 15: 14-22 (to “in it”)

1 Corinthians 15: 51-54

At the burial occasion on Friday we sang hymn 375, and I was struck by the first and last verses of it.  The first verse says:

Lord, though Thy saints be laid to rest,

In Thee they have a portion blest.

‘A portion’: if you have a portion of something you could consider it a set amount; it is your own; you have it: you have ‘a portion blest’.  That is a wonderful thing, dear friend.  Are you in the good of the knowledge that you have a portion with God, something that is your own, something that has been given to you, something, which has been purchased with a price, but it is for you, distinctly your own?  You are not trying to share your brother’s portion next to you, or something like that, but are you in the distinct realisation of having your own portion?  I thought we got a real impression on Friday of one who was in the good of that, the knowledge of having a portion that was her own.  That is what the gospel is seeking to impart to you, the importance of having your own portion, as it were, something that you can call your own, a link with God in Christ Jesus.  What a portion!  You might think of a portion as being a small thing, but there is nothing small about what God has on offer in the gospel, nothing small about it at all.  It is as great as you are willing to go in for it.  It might seem, if your estimation of your need was very small, to be a small thing but get yourself right as to the estimation of your need and you will realise that what you need is a great thing.   God has a great thing on offer in Christ, the greatest thing.  

In Luke 14, there is a man who had a great thing on offer: he is opening his house.  God is desirous of opening His house to you.  He is wanting to fill His house and He is sending out.  I did not read of those who were sent an invitation.  An invitation is a sort of formal thing, a communication you can take it or you can leave it.  The gospel is not going out on the grounds that you can take it or you can leave it.  No!  The gospel is going out on the grounds of compulsion: “Go out into the ways and fences and compel to come in”.  You must realise your need.  You must realise you cannot just say, ‘Well, I have a list of excuses.  It does not really suit me this week’.  No, you must realise the dire circumstances you are in.  So I did read of these persons who would have been well aware of their need.  The first he speaks of are those in “the streets and lanes of the city”.  These are persons who did not have their own house even.  He says, “Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring here the poor and crippled and lame and blind”.  These are persons who would have known their need, known that there was something wrong with them, known that they were in a position where they could not do that much for themselves.  You read about beggars that the disciples had to do with in the Acts and elsewhere, and the Lord had to do with in the gospels, and you also find that there are these kinds of persons, “the poor and crippled and lame and blind”, those who did not need to be told they had a need; they knew it well enough themselves.  Are you labouring  under the misapprehension that you have no need?  Clear yourself of that immediately: you have a need; you have a need of a Saviour.

Well, the desire of the householder here is that the house should be filled.  We sang that hymn at the start:

God’s house is filling fast             (Hymn 70).

How that must please God!  We often speak in the gospel of that scripture that says, “there shall be joy in heaven for one repenting sinner”, Luke 15: 7.  What joy God must have in His house being filled!  What joy He must find in a person freshly coming to Christ.  He is desirous of filling His house with such persons.  There is a place for you if you are such a person.  The householder here, having been informed that his bondman had cleared the streets, as it were, sent them out again.  He says, “Go out into the ways and fences and compel to come in”.  I suppose “the streets and lanes” might speak of that sort of city, that area in which things are formalised in a way, but then there are “the ways and fences”: there is no-one who is outwith His gaze; He sees all.  You might think you are at the very fringes of society; you might think you have done things in your past which cannot be forgiven which will keep you eternally from God.  Not so, dear friend!  “Go out into the ways and fences”.  That is, ‘Do not leave one corner untouched’!  The gospel is going out in this way, searching the earth for those who will believe.  Be amongst those who will believe!  I have said it is not a choice, and it is not a choice in one way in that you must believe.  You must; it is imperative that you do.  But on the other hand, I suppose, you could take the steepest risk of all and choose to delay.  What a risk to choose to delay!  It is not said that any of these ones refused such an invitation as this.  No, they are compelled to come in.  They know that where they are being taken is somewhere better and, the gospel seeks to put you onto better ground than you will ever get yourself onto, into God’s house, into that area.  There is safety there, supply there, love there.  God would have His house filled tonight.  He would have your name upon a space, as it were.  That hymn that we sang says:

Some guest will be the last,

and that is a literal thing, I think: take the opportunity!  It is available to you now.

Well, if we turn the page, this is a well-known scripture.  I really had in mind the best robe in regard to this because, if you are going to find a place there, you need to be clothed.  It said in the previous passage, “A certain man made a great supper and invited many”, Luke 14: 16.  This was a great occasion, and it became those who came to dress accordingly, but if you are going to find yourself in God’s house, how are you going to be dressed?  What are you going to be clothed in there?  It is the best robe that is in view for that.  We have to be clothed in the best robe.

So, this younger son had gone off to this country and dispensed with everything he had.  “But when he had spent all there arose a violent famine”; I think the younger son here was like one who was out in “the ways and fences”.  He did not have a roof over his head; he did not have anything to his name; he had nothing to rely upon.  Even the food that was available to him was food for the swine; it was not given to him to feed himself.  That is like one who has nothing to claim.  He had nothing on which he could lay his hands and call his own but what he did have was more precious than those round about him had.  It was the knowledge of his father’s house and the abundance that was there.  The gospel seeks to give you that kind of wealth.  It seeks to give you that kind of wealth that you can say, ‘I know where a better place can be found’.  This younger son was “coming to himself”.  I am often struck by that in reading this: “And coming to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father’s …”.  He thinks of those who are lowest in his father’s house, and they have “abundance of bread”.  God is not taking you into His house to give you a lowly place.  He is taking you into His household, not just His house, as sons.  It is available to you through the work of Christ.  

This younger son returns to his father.  We have all been “a long way off”; and he had gone about as far as he could go, I would think.  He had taken what he had got from the father’s house and he had headed off but he was not so far away that he could not come back.  However far you are from God in your sins, you are never so far that you cannot come back.  The father was looking out for him.  It has often been said that the son takes one step, and the father runs to greet him.  Have in your heart tonight, if nothing else, that the Father has His eye upon you.  The Father has His eye upon you tonight: He is looking for that first step.  You might have thought the younger son in starvation conditions might have thought, ‘I am not strong enough for that journey.  I have come all this way away.  Where will I get provisions for this journey?’.  But there is no thought of that in his mind.  The only thought in his mind was going back to his father.  Immediately there is strength and there is provision for him.  So, however far your sins have taken you from God, wherever you find yourself, when you come to yourself and realise your need, recognise that you are never so far from God that you cannot get back.  You can get back by taking that one step, taking that one step in the direction of God, the direction of the Father’s home.  He was not so far away that he had forgotten which direction that was.  Why? Because he was coming to recognise the extent of his needs; he recognised which direction to go to get back to where he could have that need met.  

Well, he goes back to the father: “But while he was yet a long way off, his father saw him, and was moved with compassion”. God has compassion for you tonight; the Father has compassion for you.  Have you thought about that?  If you drive down the street and perhaps you see someone begging at the side of the road, have you compassion for them? It touches your feelings as you go past.  Do you have compassion for them or do you walk on by?  I just pose that as a question because God looks upon you in your sin as one who has nothing to offer, nothing at all.  What have you got to offer God?  Nothing!  But He looks upon you with compassion.  Does that not just show what a heart of love God has that He can look with compassion upon persons who have nothing to offer themselves?  I was just thinking of “one of the citizens of that country”; he sends him into the fields to feed swine.  It is a relationship of give and take.  The younger son was sent into the field to do work so he could link himself on to the household of that man.  I think that is how it worked.  Presumably his needs were met in a very limited way there, but that is the relationship of the world again, give and take.  You have nothing to give God.  I think we had a touch of that in the reading: you have nothing.  The faster you come to that, the safer you will be because if you labour under the misapprehension that you have something to offer God, then that is what is keeping you from God.  But when you come to yourself as the younger son did, realise you have nothing to offer, it is at that point that you can make that step back towards God.

So here he gets back to the father and he has his speech prepared.  You might think it would be a hard thing to confess all your sins to God, to tell Him things you are embarrassed about, but not really because God knows them all, knows everything already about you.  Even if you tried to confess everything you had ever done, there would doubtless be things you had forgotten about, but God knows them all, and He is not holding them against you.  Having made that step back, the younger son has that speech prepared and I do not think he even got halfway through it.  The father saw him, and he said, “I am no longer worthy to be called thy son”.  Then it says, “But the father said to his bondmen, Bring out the best robe and clothe him in it”.  Oh, dear friend, if we are going to have a part in that house, we require to be clothed; you require clothing fit for the place, and that clothing is Christ.  You have to be clothed in the worth of Another.  Your own worth is not worth anything there.  In fact, you require a covering, and there is no greater covering than Christ, as He covers entirely all that you actually are. His work at the cross, He has gone into death, paid the penalty of sin there, but it is to be as a covering for you and for me in our sinful estate. He could not return us to innocence. You would not wish such a thing; rather you are covered in the worth of Another.  

Beloved, this is not just any other; it is the Son of God, that One wholly perfect Himself.  I said I was impressed by the last verse of hymn 375 too:

When those asleep shall wakened be

To put on immortality.

So, where we have read here in Corinthians, it is just what came into my mind in regard to this.  It speaks of the “corruptible” and the “incorruptible” and the “mortal” and “immortality”.  I feel I have touched upon what is corruptible already because man in his sin is corruption.  Man in his sin has corrupted the ways God had for him.  God had His thoughts for man as set out at the beginning, and man in sin has corrupted these things, but God would seek to set out a path; man in his corruption has deviated from that path, but in Christ there is incorruptibility.  Why? Because you are clothed in the worth of Another.  Then it comes to putting on immortality.  That scripture in 1 Timothy came to my mind as well speaking of One “who only has immortality”, 1 Tim 6: 16.  We have to “put on immortality”, but He “has immortality”.  We are clothed in the worth of Another.  We do not become that Other; but we are clothed in His worth.  And what a worth that is.  God is looking upon you as clothed with Christ, the worth of Christ. He does not see any worth of mine, which is nothing and could never be in His presence.  He sees the worth of Another; He sees the worth of Christ, and how pleasing that is to Him.  Think of the scripture that says, “there shall be joy in heaven for one repenting sinner”.  Why is there joy? It is because God looks upon one who is clothed in the worth of Christ, and how pleasing that is to His heart, how pleasing to His heart that there is one who can come into His presence now, not in a state of corruption, but in the state of incorruptibility, of being clothed in the worth of Christ! That is available to you tonight.  Do you recognise your need for it because you need to?  You need to recognise your need of it, but then you have to recognise that you have nothing to give to secure this and anything you could offer would actually be an offence to God because God has freely given His only-begotten Son, and Christ has freely given His life at the cross, man there in wickedness piercing His side.

Thy blood love’s answer gave            (Hymn 230),

one could say. What an answer!  What do you have to offer that compares to this?  Nothing compares to this.  God has done it all.  Christ has moved in perfection in this scene in every step pleasing the Father.  He could say, “I do always the things that are pleasing to him”, John 8: 29.  What a perfect sacrifice!  I have been thinking recently of the tabernacle system and the sacrifices there, and it says they were to be without spot, without blemish.  You can just imagine the shepherd going through his herd looking for one that fitted these criteria.  It would probably be relatively rare to find a perfect animal, but you had to find one that was the best of your flock. Sometimes it speaks of the firstborn from amongst the flock, but they had to be without blemish, and then they had to be taken to the priest to be checked that they were without blemish.  It must have been quite a thing to find one like that, but in Christ God has found One who meets His exacting standard.  What a standard!  The holy righteousness of God has been met in Christ. Well, what a covering!.  Adam and Eve at the beginning were given coats of skin as a covering, as it were, but in Christ you find your eternal covering.  You put it on, but it is not with ever a view to taking it off.  It is not like a garment exactly; it is a moral covering.  It covers what you are, sets you up before God.  Well, dear friend, that is what is available to you tonight, but it is in view, as we read here, of putting on immortality.

The Lord is coming for His own, coming very soon no doubt.  If I could impress another thing upon your heart on this occasion, it is that as you come to God, you must realise your time here is short, and the Lord is coming back for His own, and it is very soon.  I think, Paul was very much in the gain of having the view that the Lord was coming very soon.  He speaks to the Thessalonians as to “we, the living who remain”, 1 Thess 4: 15.  He does not say, ‘You, the living’ thinking that he himself would be dead, but “we, the living, who remain”.  Once you come to know Christ, live your life on that line that “we, the living”, that you expect the Lord to come, not just in your own lifetime, perhaps when you are very old.  Dear friend, live your life as one who expects the Lord to come this week, that expects Him to come today.  Keep near to the reality of His soon return, and that will keep you in the living reality of what God has offered you because the gospel does not just offer you eventual salvation; it offers you eternal salvation and present salvation; so, as accepting Christ as your Saviour, it is not that you would just put off the day of judgment or in some way skip that judgment.  No, it is present salvation, and He is an all-the-way-home Saviour.  He will be with you until the end of this road whenever that may be, until the rapture, when He comes to take His own to be with Himself, but then too with Him for eternity.

If we continue the thought of putting on, we are to know what it is to have the Spirit currently, who will keep us in the good of these things.  If you are going to have a relationship it is imperative it is a personal relationship, not an academic one.  You cannot really have an academic relationship with God.  You might know all about some historical figure academically but you do not exactly have a relationship with them, do you, even though you can no doubt answer many questions about them? But the believer has a personal relationship with Christ.  Through the power of the Spirit currently it is a relationship we know; it is as near a relationship as one might have with any other; it is real.  The Spirit is available.  The Father delights to give the Spirit, and the Spirit delights to tell you of Christ.  I have told you so very little, but I think what I have told you is what is required for you to come to know Him.  It would be the Spirit’s delight to tell you all about that One.  What does the Spirit impart?  What did the servant impart to Rebecca on that ride back to Isaac?  No doubt He told her all about Isaac.  No doubt he told her all about the father’s house too.  

Dear friend, the Spirit would tell you all about the eternal position, tell you all about the Father’s house.  It is the Father’s delight to impart impressions of His Son.  I remember being at a reading and a brother said we have the Scriptures and can read of all the things in the gospels that Jesus did, but speak to the Father about the Son.  He would delight to tell you about the Son.  He might tell you something He had never specifically told anyone before.  That is not to say you are looking for novelties, but, you have a real relationship where you can say something for yourself about the Person you are in relationship with, not something someone else has told you, but what your own appreciation of that relationship is. This is what is available to you tonight, freely available.  Accept it for His Name’s sake!

 

Aberdeen

25th June 2023